If, Then

If, Then

by Kate Hope Day

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780525511229
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/12/2019
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 167,167
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.40(h) x 2.00(d)

About the Author

Kate Hope Day holds a B.A. from Bryn Mawr College and a Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh. She was an associate producer at HBO. She lives in Oregon with her husband and their two children.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The earth trembles. She tastes metal. That’s how it starts on a moonless Sunday in Clearing, Oregon, in the shadow of the dormant volcano locals call Broken Mountain.

Just after 10:00 p.m. Ginny stands at the bathroom sink, a toothbrush in one hand and a paperback in the other. She always reads like this, in minutes parceled out from her packed days—in the bathroom after everyone has gone to bed, or parked in her car when she gets to the hospital a little early. The heat whirs in the vent. She considers staying up to read another chapter. Her husband, Mark, is already asleep in the next room.

Her pager buzzes from the bedroom and she retrieves it from her bedside table. A series of familiar numbers scrolls across the tiny backlit screen. The emergency room. “Damn.”

She dials the number. “ER,” the nurse answers.

“This is Dr. McDonnell. I was paged?”

“Let me get Dr. Pierce.”

Classical music plays energetically in her ear. She sits down on the edge of the bed. Suddenly she’s tired.

One of the cats jumps down from the comforter and stalks out the door toward Noah’s bedroom. But Mark doesn’t stir. He’s learned how to sleep through her nighttime pages. His face is naked without his glasses, his curly hair black against the white sheets.

She turns down the volume on the phone and switches on her lamp. Mark rolls over on his side but doesn’t wake. The music is tinny and faraway in her ear. The floor shakes; there’s a metallic taste in her mouth. Her vision abruptly alters—

Where Mark was sleeping a woman appears. Her face is so familiar . . . ​Edith. Her friend’s hair is always pulled back in a bun at the hospital. Now it fans out in crinkly waves across the pillow. Freckles stipple her shoulders and the tops of her breasts.

Ginny smells warm skin and damp sheets; she hears her own quickened breath. A swell of desire, uncomfortably strong, rises inside her abdomen. The woman reaches out, as if to stroke Ginny’s hair.

Then, in an instant, she’s gone. Mark’s back in the bed.

Ginny rubs her eyes, blinking furiously.

“Doctor McDonnell—” Brian Pierce’s strident voice comes through the phone. “We’ve got a seventy-­five-­year-­old man with a rigid abdomen, white blood count of 24,000, fever of 101.2, peritoneal signs, and free air on abdominal films. Came into the ER about an hour ago. His name is Robert Kells. Can you come in and take a look?”

She’s silent for a beat, her mind still anchored to Edith’s lovely face. “Any major medical issues?” she finally musters.

“A history of liver disease—” There’s the rustle of paperwork. “We’ve admitted him a couple of times for pancreatitis. That’s it.”

“We need to set up for an ex-­lap.” Her brain has come back to life, has switched into the proper gear.

“I’ll tell the charge nurse. Just get on the road. This guy isn’t going to last long.”

Ginny follows her usual routine: pulls on scrubs, scrapes her hair into a short ponytail, and rubs lip balm on her lips. She climbs into her Acura SUV and backs out into the deserted cul-­de-­sac. Her neighbors’ porch lights are off. Behind her house the forest is a dark blank. Rain mists her windshield.

She drives down the hill and across town, and the mountain recedes in her rearview mirror. She usually likes the ride to the hospital at night—the empty streets, the sealed-­in quiet of her car, the gentle tack tack tack of her turn signal as she idles at stoplights. But tonight these things don’t bring her peace.

She’s disturbed by what she saw. She must have fallen asleep for a second. Or she has a brain tumor. She recalls a list of symptoms from her neurosurgery rotation in residency:

headaches

problems with balance

blurred or double vision

seeing things that aren’t there . . . ​

She turns into the staff parking lot. The scrubs, the ponytail, the car ride—they haven’t done their job. There’s an irritating flutter in her chest.

Inside, the fluorescent lights of the ER are a welcome slap in the face. Her clogs squeak against the polished floors. Her patient waits, supine, behind a green curtain in the freezing pre-­op holding room. As soon as she pulls the thin cloth closed behind her she feels better.

“Mr. Kells, I’m Dr. McDonnell, the surgeon who will be taking care of you.” She enunciates each word, speaking over the beeping racket that surrounds them, and looks steadily into the man’s broad, ashen face. He says nothing but holds her gaze firmly.

She picks up his chart. “My apologies. Professor Kells.”

“Robby,” he says in a hoarse whisper. He has thick eyebrows and a full head of gray hair, and she can easily imagine him at the front of a lecture hall.

“I’m going to examine you now. Is that all right?”

He nods.

She rubs her hands together to warm them, lifts his hospital gown, and feels along his pale stomach. “I’m going to press down on your abdomen. Can you tell me if it hurts more or less when I release the pressure?”

She presses, lets go, and watches his face twist into an ugly grimace. He makes no sound. She’s impressed with his stoicism. His silent scowl makes her think of her father, when he first got sick. Professor Kells is about the same age her father would be if he were still alive.

She puts her stethoscope in her ears and listens carefully to the four quadrants of his belly.

“Do you teach at the university?” she asks.

He nods.

“What subject?”

“Philosophy.”

“Impressive.” She picks up his chart again. “Just want to double check. No history of heart disease or arrhythmia? Any cardiac events at all?”

He shakes his head.

“Good. We want to get you back to your books and your students. But to do that I need to find out what’s causing the discomfort in your abdomen. There’s a good chance you have a perforation in your intestine. If you do, and it isn’t repaired soon, you could die. We’re ready to take you to the OR now. Do you give your consent?”

“Yes.”

“We’ll do the very best we can for you.”

He grips her hand with surprising strength. “How about better than your best?” he asks, with a hint of a smile.

“All right.” She laughs. “You got it.”

Reading Group Guide

1. If, Then takes inspiration from the concept of counterfactuals. On page 21, Cass says, "If I hadn’t been assigned a cubical in the sciences library, I would never have met Amar," and "If I’d remembered to pack my birth control pills on our camping trip to the redwoods, Leah wouldn’t exist." What’s a counterfactual from your own life?

2. How does the natural world affect the experiences of each of the four main characters? How would you describe nature as a force in the book?

3. When and why in your own life have you felt—as Cass and Ginny do—that you wanted or needed to be in two places at once?

4. The main characters are at different points in their lives. How does the novel represent the various phases of family life?

5. Was there one character you identified with more than the others? Why?

6. There are a lot of workplace scenes in the novel. How do the characters' jobs shape them as people? How do their jobs affect their relationships with others?

7. Place is a vivid component in the novel. How would you describe the town of Clearing?

8. The novel charts the disintegration of Ginny and Mark’s marriage over the course of the story. What do you think went wrong in their relationship?

9. Samara finds it difficult to let go of her parents’ house, and the memories associated with it. Do you feel as she does about your own childhood home?

10. What do you think is causing the visions?

Customer Reviews

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If, Then 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
ALTaylor 5 days ago
Where, oh, where do I begin? I finished this book several days ago, and have been rolling it over in my head ever since. So much so, that I’m debating going back and rereading the Entire. Book. Again. Our story takes place in a quiet neighborhood at the base of a dormant volcano in Oregon. The neighbors are living normal lives...jobs, hobbies, children, love, grief. However, each person, unbeknownst to their fellow cul-de-sac residents, are having odd visions of their own lives and homes and families. On a personal note, Samara’s storyline hit so close to home for me. Her visions, of course, revolve around seeing her mother, whom she has just recently lost. Samara learns a lot about her mother, and herself, while cleaning out her mother’s belongings. At one point, she talks to her father about particular things that had belonged to her mother as she cleans out the kitchen... “He picks up the box of mismatched Tupperware. ‘They’re just things, Sammy. They’re not her.’” As someone who has recently lost her own mother, the way that Day wrote Samara and how she was dealing with her grief was spot on. She perfectly captured what this emptiness feels like...what the grasping for one last piece of the person you lost feels like. One particular passage had me sobbing with understanding: ________________________ In her head her mother says, 'You don’t want that old thing, Sammy. There’s a chip on the bottom.' But Samara does want that old thing. It’s a portal to another moment in time. To a summer day on her parents’ back deck. To the sound of ice cubes clinking in a pitcher of lemonade, and the heat of the sun against the backs of her hands and the tops of her thighs. To the taste of sour and sweet, and the pressure of her mother’s cool fingers on her shoulder as she leaned over the table to pour her another glass. ________________________ There is so much I cannot talk about as it will completely give away many important pieces of the story. I will say, though, that if you like a hint of mystery, a bit of alternate reality, and a lot of the day-to-day dynamics of diverse families, then this is something you’re going to want to run to the bookstore to pick up. Immediately. I wish I could give it more than 5 stars. (As a side note, I've read some of the other reviews here at B&N and am finding that they didn't really *get* the book or what was happening in the different timelines. Ignore the confused & negative reviews and give this book a chance.) Thank you to Random House and NetGalley for this digital copy to read and review! Available Now!
Anonymous 8 days ago
This+book+sounded+like+a+very+interesting+read.++Unfortunately%2C+I+found+it+hard+to+follow+at+times+and+didn%27t+find+myself+drawn+to+any+of+the+characters.+
CynB 16 days ago
If, Then, by Kate Hope Day, is a short but challenging novel about neighbors in a suburban Oregon neighborhood who suddenly start seeing visions of an alternate realities. These visions coincide with seismic rumblings of a close, presumably dormant volcanic mountain. The novel is beautifully written and raises questions about the choices we make and the consequences that follow. Simultaneously, and perhaps, contradictory, it also demonstrates how our choices falter and evaporate in the face of events beyond our control. Nonetheless, some parts confused me because the timelines seemed out-of-sync. Was this a vision or not? The story has a misty, dream-like quality which I liked. Yet, I was not particularly satisfied with the conclusion. I suspect that was precisely the author’s intent. There is a lot to ponder in this novel, and it is worth a second read. Thanks to NetGalley and Random House for giving me the opportunity to read an electronic ARC in exchange for an honest review.
TheModestReader 22 days ago
I’m really into science-fiction TV and movies: Star Trek, Star Wars… I love them both. Weirdly enough, however, is that my enthusiasm for the genre hasn’t really translated much over to literature. Don’t get me wrong, I love it when stories take place in an alternate reality (like Harry Potter or any of the great YA trilogies), but I’d not consider much that I’ve read science-fiction… if anything. That’s why when I saw the description for If, Then by Kate Hope Day in NetGalley, I thought this would be a great way to marry science-fiction with literary fiction and maybe push me into the genre a little more. But boy, this book really wasn’t what I thought I was signing up for. Synopsis Four neighbours from Clearing, Oregon begin to experience something strange: Themselves, but not themselves, in glimpses of a reality that could have been. Ginny, a surgeon who spends more time at work than at home, sees herself happy again, sleeping with one of her co-workers. Mark, her husband, sees an impending doom to not just his family, but those around them, too. Samara, who is mourning the death of her mother, keeps seeing her mom everywhere—like she never left. And finally, there’s Cass, a new mother and a scholar, who sees herself pregnant again, when all she wants to do is jump back into work. What happens when everyone is experiencing something no one wants to talk about, for fear of being called crazy? My musings I’m going to be honest here: I almost didn’t finish this book. The characters were just regular people, living regular lives, and though that sometimes makes the book relatable, in this case, it meant that I felt absolutely nothing was happening. Sure, there were people having these visions of an alternate reality, but no one was doing anything about it; they were just sort of accepting it as is. And Cass didn’t even start seeing these visions until three-quarters of the way through the book… and I was beginning to question what she was doing there. I was really hoping there was going to be a sci-fi story here…and there wasn’t. There is an explanation as to what happens to these people, but I found it unsatisfying. The only reason I gave it that extra half star was because I like the way Cass’s storyline didn’t quite fit into everyone else’s. I like that she was the piece that didn’t quite fit. It made for a slightly more interesting conclusion. But if you’re looking for some big mystery to be solved, some bad guy to catch or some science-fictiony twist, you’re not going to get it. What you get is the story of these ordinary people, doing ordinary things and sharing a common experience. Which is a great big metaphor for life, I suppose. Look for it in stores everywhere on March 12. 1.5 STARS See more honest book reviews at www.themodestreader.com
MaryND 28 days ago
I don’t usually read science fiction, but the premise of If, Then—residents of a suburban community in Oregon start seeing visions of themselves living alternate lives—was intriguing. And Kate Hope Day can really write—her prose is clean and smooth, the story is propulsive and the characters (a husband and wife navigating a stagnant marriage; a new mother trying to balance her baby with her academic career; and a daughter mourning the loss of her mother) are interesting. The problem for me, however—and probably predictably—was the science fiction element. There was something a bit hokey about the “metallic taste” that presaged the characters’ entrances into their alternate reality worlds, and I found myself spending so much time trying to reconcile the timelines and details of their alternate realities with the main storylines—how can one person’s alternate reality life be part of another person’s actual life and, if so, which is actually real?—that I wished Day had left this distracting element out of her book altogether. Without it, If, Then reads perfectly well as literary fiction and was enjoyable to me on that level. My criticisms are probably unfair given that this book is, in fact, science fiction—I was probably predisposed to be a skeptic. But I do look forward to reading a future Kate Hope Day novel which I hope showcases her great writing and storytelling without the speculative elements. (3.5 stars.)
colleencornwell 4 months ago
If, Then was totally different from anything I've read before, at least recently. The book centers around the residents of a small town in Oregon. Several of the residents start having "visions" of themselves in alternate realities, and as time goes on, the visions become increasingly dark and realistic. I loved how the past, present, and future were all intertwined, as well as the lives of the characters. Day's portrayal of the difficulties of new motherhood was incredibly poignant, and she successfully investigated the intricacies of marriage in a really raw, emotional way. I loved this book because it made me think, both about life as we know it, and about the lives that could have been. This was a really fascinating and touching read. For my full review, check out my blog at bmoregirlreads.com!
Jolie 4 months ago
I started off liking If, Then. The author did a great job at setting the groundwork for a great book. Each character (and secondary characters) was relatable in their own way. I was fine with the book until halfway through. Then the book went a different direction. It was that sudden change in the plotline that made me go “Eh?“. I actually had to reread several chapters to understand what I was reading. I do not like when I have to do that. Like I mentioned above, I liked the characters at the beginning of the book. Each character was relatable and likable. Even when things started to get weird (and man, did they), I still liked them. If I had to pick one who wasn’t a favorite, it was Ginny. She couldn’t make up her mind who she wanted to be with. I wanted to shake her. I got lost reading the plotline during the 2nd half of the book. What made me lost was Cass’s storyline and the storyline with Other Mark. I had questions about both storylines there were not answered. I can’t get into what they were here but they were legitimate. I also found the main storyline a bit much. The end of the book seemed rushed. While I am glad that everything worked out, it seemed too pat and a little rushed. I was almost hoping for someone not to have a happy ending. That would have changed things up a little bit.
Katie__B 4 months ago
The book held my interest but I can't say I was left feeling all that satisfied by the time the story wrapped up. While the explanation of why everything occurred wasn't the thing that bothered me, I had this empty feeling when I was done reading because it felt like I got nothing out of the whole purpose of the story. I rarely read science fiction but I thought the premise for this one sounded like it had potential. Basically four neighbors are just living their lives in Oregon when some weird stuff starts happening. They have these visions where they see themselves in this alternate reality. What the heck is going on? I gave this one 3 stars because this was a page turner for me. But if I ask myself, did I really get anything out of this read?, I would have to say no. I've read some of the other reviews and that certainly wasn't the case for everyone. It's not a bad book and I don't regret reading, I just wish I would have connected more with the overall message of the story. I won a free copy of this book in a giveaway but was under no obligation to post a review. All views expressed are my honest opinion